Checking into House 36 upon our arrival in Hoi An was amazing. Our $17 a night room was gorgeous! Anything this nice at home would easily be at least $100 per night. It was so modern and clean compared to anything we’d stayed in since the Yusense hotel in Taipei. Cleaned up, we dropped off our massive bag of laundry and went to see the city/EAT. Omg eat! We ended up in the tourist quarter of old town replete with fancy restaurants and souvenir shops.
One of the big things to do in Hoi An is to having clothing custom made. There are hundreds of shops in the city and everywhere you turn there’s another three. I wanted to get a maxi dress and a couple blouses made since I can never get these items that fit at home. Rob came along on my quest to find a good tailor but ditched me at the second shop out of boredom. I went to a total of four shops and finally chose one, the Golden Patch tailor, a newer shop that still had great reviews. They were good to work with and let me browse in peace which I appreciated. But, by the end of the day I was worn out from all the looking that I couldn’t bring myself to order yet and instead joined Rob at our favorite cheap beer place (3,000 vnd/13 cents for a glass of fresh beer). He was chatting with a guy from Wales after having done some through exploration of the area. Since he was in the same spot from the previous night, some familiar folks from previous hostels who had seen him last night asked if he’d ever moved.
The next day we went back to the tailor and both ended up ordering a few pieces. Rob got a linen suit for summer events and I picked out two blouses, two dresses and a pair of pants. We put in our order around noon and by 11 am the next day we had clothes to try on. Rob’s suit and shirt were pretty good as were my maxi dress, pants and one of the blouses. The second blouse was way too small and the other dress, which I had just given them pictures of what I wanted, was a mess. Since it was backless, they had added a built in bra, however, their idea of boob padding is crazy. The pads felt massive and were mounted so high that I felt ridiculous. The straps also hit in all the wrong places. The second fitting after another 20 hours went much better and I was relieved to have a dress that I could actually wear. They adjusted a few more things then everything was ready for us to pick up on the third day. I think we ended up looking pretty good in our new duds.
Hoi An is an old port city long ago made irrelevant as the harbor silted up. With no economic importance, the old town center and river survived only to be transformed into a tourist mecca. Everything a tourist desires can be found here although getting peace and any kind of real local experience takes more effort. The city is decked out with colorful streamers and lanterns. Lit up at night, the riverfront is a lively place to be. The daytime is quieter with only the groups visiting the historic buildings. Everyone else hits the beach or tours the surrounding countryside.
We spent the rest of the afternoon (and the next morning) visiting five of the sites on the old town ticket (admission for 5 sights for 150k vnd). There are some pretty neat old houses and buildings that allow you to visit.
After seeing some of the sights, we wandered around trying to find an interesting more local place to eat at that A) had locals dining b) had food we were interested in and C) was not entirely men eating. Finally we stumbled on a beef restaurant and order a bowl of lemon beef soup and fixings for beef fresh roll. Afterwards, we indulged in the local pastime of pool/billards. The pool hall was one of the busiest local places and we had seen one in most small towns. Rob is much better so we employed a handicap, but what was far more successful for me was just to wait for him to shoot himself in the foot and scratch on the eight ball which he did twice. We were still a bit peckish after pool but conveniently we passed a cream puff stand (Banh Su Kem) on the way back. They add the filling when you order so they don’t get soggy.
The next afternoon after our fittings, Rob and I took the motorbike to An Bang beach and enjoyed sun, sand and water. Rob played frisbee with some other backpackers while I read my book. Then we had a bit of sand castle fun before seeking out dinner in town at the Central Market. The food court there serves all the local specialties at very reasonable prices. If you want to pay slightly more, you can dine on the plastic chairs and tables on the riverfront for an extra 50-10k per dish. The Cau lau and white rose were great but we weren’t a fan of the mi quang noodles.
For our last day, we picked up the clothing and got it mailed home. By then, Rob was getting hangry and had been craving bùn, so we stopped at a nearby street eatery. Their take on bùn mam (dry not soup) was different. Inside of a fish sauce style dressing, it came with a slightly runny peanut sauce. Rob quickly declared this to be his favorite Vietnamese dish. Then, we left for Danang, a short drive north.